Traditional fuels and cooking stoves in developing countries: a technical, social and environmental assessment

Gill, Jasvinder Singh (1985). Traditional fuels and cooking stoves in developing countries: a technical, social and environmental assessment. PhD thesis The Open University.



Population pressure in developing countries is believed to be the predominant cause of deforestation, due to the dual needs of food and fuel. This has led to a shortage of firewood (for cooking) and affects especially the rural poor of these countries. One intervention strategy to reduce firewood consumption has been to design, develop and disseminate "improved" (ie fuel efficient) cooking stoves for use in the rural sector. These stove programmes have failed to achieve widespread dissemination of "improved" stoves. One reason is the mismatch between the felt needs and problems of the rural poor and the assumptions of institutions and individuals designing and promoting these stoves. Moreover, traditional stoves and fireplaces are not inherently inefficient for cooking. Not all "improved" stoves have been more efficient than traditional designs in practice. Traditional modes of cooking serve a number of sociocultural and practical functions which have been neglected in stove programmes to date. Stove users in a number of developing countries appear to be more concerned about speedy cooking whilst stove programmes overemphasize fuel savings.

Villagers in Zimbabwe appear to have spontaneously transferred to stoves which consume significantly more fuel than their traditional fireplace. However, this lack of fuel economy is offset by the benefits of faster cooking, greater space heat, more stable pots and a modern "image". The higher firewood collection costs are affordable as this takes place in the agriculturally slack season.

Deforestation is a complex issue to which there are a number of contributary factors. In Zimbabwe, the processes of land degradation, deforestation, and the ensuing shortage of firewood were set in motion as early as the 1890’s when the African population residing on the fertile highlands was forcibly evicted onto marginal land by European settlers. Strategies to cope with deforestation in Zimbabwe would be aided by user participation in defining needs and problems within the wider framework of land tenure, agroforestry schemes and inputs to
increase the productivity of African areas.

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